Grocery shopping online

Today I volunteered with Food Lifeline, a non-profit organization in Seattle that supplies food to hundreds of food banks in western Washington. We were a group of about 40 volunteers who were given a task to go through thousands of pounds of apples, discard the bad ones and pack the good ones in banana boxes to be dispatched to food banks. Pretty straightforward, but during the process, I noticed that the definition of a good fruit is drastically different for different individuals. In fact, out of 40 people working there, I guess everyone had their own definition of which piece of apple is good to be packed and which one should be discarded. This made me think, can you shop for grocery items like fruits online?

Putting in context, grocery shopping online means relying on someone else making the decision of whether the fruit you are buying is good enough or not. I believe majority of shoppers will question this other person’s decision with an argument that the fruit they got through the online grocery is not as good as what they would have chosen from a lot in the grocery store. You can say the same thing for something like shoes in terms of fitness, easiness and so on. But the major difference between shoes and grocery is that you can return shoes after trying them on and the store will take it back, but in case of fruits and vegetables with a very limited shelf life, it is quite possible that if you ship a perfectly fine fruit back to the online store, it will be rotten by the time it reaches their warehouse making the return policy a bad business decision for the store.

This takes us back to the age old question of what customers buy on the web and what they don’t. I believe customers are more comfortable buying anything that is WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get…a different use of a computing term:-)) like electronics, books etc…but then there are always some exceptions!

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